This year’s Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship is scheduled July 28-Aug. 3 at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch near Hurricane Mills, Tenn.
The 32nd annual event has hosted many of the nation’s top amateur motocross racers annually since 1982.
What follows is an excerpt of Keith Waltz’s profile of the event, which appeared in the July issue of SPEED SPORT Magazine.
By Keith Waltz
Produced by MX Sports, the Red Bull AMA Amateur National Motocross Championship is the culmination of a five-month process to crown 36 amateur national motocross champions. The national qualifying program consists of 50 Area Qualifiers (February through May) and 12 Regional Championships (June), hosted at select motocross facilities across the country.
Nearly 20,000 riders attempt to qualify in 36 classes for the 1,446 available positions at the National, which has served as a launching pad for some of the biggest names in professional motocross and Supercross, including Ricky Carmichael, Kevin Windham, Jeff Emig, James Stewart, Ryan Villopoto and Ryan Dungey.
Today it is one of the largest amateur motorsports gatherings in the world, but the Loretta Lynn’s event had rather humble beginnings.
“The first event was in ’82,” said Emig, who won four titles at Loretta Lynn’s Ranch before launching a professional career that earned the native of Kansas City, Kan., a place in the AMA Motorcycle Hall of Fame. “The big event in the summertime that preceded this was the race in Ponca City, Okla.
“The Combs family, who now controls professional motocross here in the U.S., their dad, Dave Combs Sr., said you know what, ‘I can do it better.’ They were driving from Oklahoma to their home in Morgantown, W.Va., one thing led to another, and there was this sign for Loretta Lynn’s Ranch. Something drew them there, they stopped and the next year they founded this event.
“It has gone from being an American Motorcyclists Ass’n-sanctioned amateur event to this year we are going to do a two-hour live broadcast — “Red Bull Signature Series” — on NBC on Saturday afternoon,” Emig added. “So, it’s like wait a second. This was not even the premier event in ’82, and now it has two hours of live network television.”
Windham is one who fully appreciates the impact a strong performance during the AMA National Motocross Championship can have on a young rider’s future. The native of Baton Rouge, La., won 18 consecutive motos at the Loretta Lynn’s track en route to eight national championships, including the 125cc A Modified and 250cc Open A Modified titles during his final amateur season in 1994.
“All of the manufacturers attend and you’re on what a lot of people believe to be the biggest amateur stage that we have,” Windham explained. “You’re racing the best of the best and it certainly doesn’t go unnoticed when you have a good race there.”